ECCO-ESMO Welcomes Oncology Professionals with Inspiration and Music

September 21, 2009
Christin Melton

The ECCO 15 - ESMO 34 Multidisciplinary Congress opened on Sunday, September 20, 2009, at the Internationales Congress Centrum (ICC) Berlin.

The ECCO 15 - ESMO 34 Multidisciplinary Congress opened on Sunday, September 20, 2009, at the Internationales Congress Centrum (ICC) Berlin. This is the first time that the two organizations have held a joint conference.

From early morning until late afternoon, attendees filed in to pick up their conference badges and complimentary bags. While abstract and poster presentations are not scheduled to begin until Monday, visiting medical professionals still find a lot to do at the ICC. Most of the major pharmaceutical companies hosted satellite symposium, which were chaired by well-known names in oncology research. Topics ranged from non-small cell lung cancer to gastrointestinal stromal tumors to metastatic colorectal cancer.

In the evening, event organizers officially opened the conference with greetings from ECCO president Professor Alexander Eggermont (left) and ESMO president Professor Jose Baselga. Eggermont said a record-breaking “15,000 delegates from 120 countries” were expected to attend, and Baselga noted that the committee had received a “record number of abstracts.”

The speakers expressed their commitment to ending disparities in cancer care, not only between countries but within countries. They also promised that many practice-changing studies would be presented on Tuesday, September 22. Baselga then introduced the keynote speaker, noting that unlike prior years, this speaker was not a fellow researcher but came with a message of inspiration valuable to everyone.

His name is Richard Bottram (right), the “marathon man.” Bottram’s fiancé Elise developed lung cancer and died not long after their wedding. A runner for 20 years, Bottram had talked with Elise about the prospect of running across Europe to bring more attention to cancer in the event of her death. Ultimately, he did what many thought impossible: he ran 365 marathons in 365 days. His decision to run every day, he explained, was symbolic of what patients with cancer go through; they do not get a day off from cancer for Christmas or New Year’s or their birthday. In response to his unique approach to advocacy, Bottram received thousands of e-mails and letters expressing encouragement, and millions around the world visited his Website (www.marathon365.org) to view his progress. Bottram said his efforts required “passion, cooperation, and strife,” the same conditions necessary to complete the many “marathons” that make up the road to a cure for cancer.

Bottram was followed by Max Raabe and the Palast Orchestra. Raabe and his band performed a repertoire of songs from the 1920s and 1930s. Watching Raabe was like being transported to the set of an old black and white film as he and his orchestra emulated the vocals, sounds, and images of the era perfectly. As an encore, Raabe returned to the stage and cheekily performed “Oops! I Did It Again” (a mega-hit by a young Britney Spears); at least one spectator viewed Raabe’s version as a vast improvement over the original. The evening wound down with a catered buffet, as physicians and other medical professionals mingled with their colleagues.

The opening events provided a pleasant beginning to what promises to be a busy week of educational and scientific symposia on the serious business of cancer. Monday’s Proffered Papers Sessions will focus on lung cancer, breast cancer, and hematological malignancies and myeloma.